Hubble's Universe Unfiltered

  • March 4, 2016

    Episode 21: New Views of the Pillars of Creation

    by Frank Summers

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    New Views of the Pillars of Creation

    One of Hubble's most famous images was taken in 1995. The iconic "Pillars of Creation" shows the tall and beautiful gaseous pillar structures that can form inside star-forming regions. Within these dark clouds, stars are being born. Hubble kicked off its 25th anniversary year in 2015 with some images that used its improved cameras to revisit these beautiful pillars. This larger, higher resolution, and expanded wavelength examination uncovered new details, new features, and new perspectives on a classic image.  

     

    Hubble press release:

     

    Notes:

    • Most will remember that there was an initial flaw in Hubble's mirror that was corrected in 1993. After that repair mission, it took some time for the public to recognize just how amazing Hubble's views of the universe really were.  The 'Pillars of Creation' image, released in November 1995, was a watershed in that regard. The image was shown on television news and reproduced in newspapers and magazines everywhere. The widespread attention helped cerify Hubble's status to the public as the pre-eminent observatory of our time.

    • The "teapot" in Sagittarius is not the full constellation. It is a star pattern, called an "asterism," within the larger collection of connected stars that makes up the entire constellation. One can search online to see the full Sagittarius constellation as it depicts the archer. A similar asterism is the Big Dipper, which is a star pattern within the constellation of Ursa Major.

    • The visible and infared views of astronomical objects are generally similar enough that one can identify common structures between the views. When using other wavelengths, like X-rays or radio waves, it can be very hard to identify how the two different wavelength views correspond. Astronomers must record the exact sky coordinates of an image in order to be able to precisely compare against views by other telescopes and in other wavelengths.

    • In 2005, for Hubble's 15th anniversary, we released an image of another pillar in the Eagle Nebula. This pillar has a long, thin profile that earned it the nickname of a "stellar spire." As seen in this contextual image, the two pillar regions are near each other in the nebula and both point toward the same group of hot stars.

     

    Image notes

    Eagle Nebula Pillars (1995)
    Credit: NASA, ESA, STScI, J. Hester and P. Scowen (Arizona State University)
    http://hubblesite.org/newscenter/archive/releases/1995/44/image/a/


    Sagittarius Region
    Credit: A. Fujii
    http://hubblesite.org/newscenter/archive/releases/2005/12/image/h/


    Eagle Nebula
    Credit: Timber Rock Observatory, clearstarrynights.com
    http://clearstarrynights.com/PicPageFolder/M16-127.html


    Eagle Nebula
    Credit: T.A. Rector (NRAO/AUI/NSF and NOAO/AURA/NSF) and B.A. Wolpa (NOAO/AURA/NSF)
    https://www.noao.edu/image_gallery/html/im0725.html


    Eagle Nebula Pillars (2015)
    Credit: NASA, ESA, and the Hubble Heritage Team (STScI/AURA)
    http://hubblesite.org/newscenter/archive/releases/2015/01/image/c/


    Eagle Nebula Pillars in Infrared (2015)
    Credit: NASA, ESA, and the Hubble Heritage Team (STScI/AURA)
    http://hubblesite.org/newscenter/archive/releases/2015/01/image/g/